Please excuse me if this post comes off as hyper or deranged or a little bit of both, but yesterday at exactly 5:41pm I told that drain who was boss and cleared the clog. Victory is mine! And yes I did have my hands up in the hallelujah pose for at least five minutes while I stared at the euphorically-empty-tub before breaking into a full body happy dance (think Elaine from Seinfeld). The funny thing is that I did it all by myself while John was on his way home from work (gotta love girl power) and without spending a dime or using a drop or Drain-o, Liquid Plumr, or anything else that could put hair on my chest (or singe any off of John’s). Woo to the hoo.
But before we get to the drain-clearing miracle that occurred less than 24 hours ago, we have to say THANK YOU to all of the amazing guys and gals who weighed in with tons of helpful suggestions on yesterday morning’s post about our clogged drain (all 175 of you!). If anyone reading this is having a drainage issue, definitely read through all of the amazingly helpful and diverse comments (at the end of this post) for more ideas than you’ll know what to do with! We even had some plumbers (and wives/daughters of plumbers) weigh in with direct advice from the experts themselves and for that we’re eternally grateful.
For anyone dealing with a backed up sink, let’s take a look back at the initial things we did to try to solve the clog that wouldn’t quit (seriously, not an inch of water would drain in a 24 hour period):
- Fishing around with our fingers (gross, we know) dislodged a decent-sized hairball (or what John affectionately called a Sherr-ball) but didn’t open the floodgates.
- Plunging released a few more items we’d rather not have seen again, but still no change in water level.
- Even our 25 foot-long drain snake (i.e. auger) was a waste of time (though we had low expectations for it anyways).
- So then we broke out the boiling water trick that had saved our kitchen sink last year. After five attempts we had only succeeded in adding more water to our tub.
- That’s when we turned to a natural remedy: a half-cup of baking soda followed by a cup of white vinegar. We did that, watched our little drain volcano fizz, let it sit for five minutes, then flushed it with a gallon of boiling water. Still no luck. Even our second attempt provided no relief, just more science project flashbacks.
- I also tried this $3 As Seen On TV quality Zip-It tool referred to us by a friend on Facebook. It didn’t yield anywhere close to the über disgusting results shown in this video about it, which we were half grateful for and half frustrated by.
So after sharing those attempts in our last post where we begged for help, many readers piped up with these additional ideas (and this is just a sampling so be sure to check out all of their comments for even more):
- Pour a bottle of Dawn dish detergent down the drain and let it sit to break up grease
- Use a wire hanger to fish around for the clog
- Shoot CLR Plumber right into the drain (it’s a can of pressurized air or gas that can blast out the clog)
- Try Drain-o, Thrift, Liquid Plumr, Paqua, or Instant Power Hair Relief products with varying levels of chemicals to dissolve it
- Dump Nair into the drain to eat up the hairball
- Pour a two-liter bottle of Coke down the drain so it erodes the clog
- Try the Kleer Drain from Home Depot to blast out the blockage
- Use a drain balloon along with a garden hose to get things moving again
- Remove the trap in the basement/crawl space to get rid of the clog & snake the drain from that angle
- Check the vent pipe on the roof to be sure it’s not clogged with debris (air flow helps water flow)
- Ensure that the stopper valve didn’t fall closed deep inside the pipe, thereby blocking the water from draining
- Remove the overflow cover (on the side of the tub under the faucet) and pull out the spring and clean it of any hair/junk
Obligatory warning: of course we’re not plumbers so we can’t vouch for all of the suggested remedies above, and you should always take the types of pipes that you have- and their conditions- into consideration when trying to clear them (we have galvanized metal ones but have heard that some of the harsher solvents and chemicals can melt newer PVC pipes and even rust metal ones, so we wouldn’t go crazy with ten of these remedies at once for example). And maybe try starting off with the milder options like the wire hanger, Dawn detergent, pressurized treatments, etc before breaking out the super crazy acid-based solutions).
Second obligatory warning: if you have tried one of the more chemical fixes above (like Drain-O, Nair, Liquid Plumbr, etc, and eventually do end up calling in a plumber, PLEASE tell the plumber which chemicals you’ve already tried to help them avoid nasty chemical burns!
But back to business. Let’s get to the exact method that did the job (paired with some pretty insane determination):
Step 1: Talk some smack to the drain, just so it knows you’re not messing around this time. I think I said something to the effect of “Ok, enough of the namby pamby stuff, I’m serious. Dead serious.”
Step 2: If there’s any standing water in the tub (which was always the case with ours since it wasn’t draining at all) use a bucket and a large sponge to empty the tub as much as possible (I dumped the water into the nearby toilet and it periodically flushed itself- fun).
Step 3: Use a screwdriver to remove the overflow cover on the side of the tub under the faucet and pull out the metal coil to inspect it for any hair or junk (if you don’t have an overflow valve skip to step 5).
Step 4: If the coil is completely clean (like ours- not one single hair to be found) do not be deterred. Shove a wet washcloth into the opening under the faucet where the overflow cover had been to keep any pressure that you’re about to apply to the drain from escaping.
Step 5: Plunge the drain like it’s your job. Every ten times in a row or so the washcloth would come loose and need to be shoved tightly back into the hole to keep the air from escaping with every plunge (a tight seal is everything). If you have a spare person around they can help by holding the washcloth in place to keep the seal nice and tight, although I’m thrilled to say that I didn’t even need John (but would’ve appreciated the eye candy).
Step 6: After about three or four ten-second attempts (a total of about forty plunges) if nothing is happening don’t give up. I almost did, but the idea of another shower spent standing in five inches of stagnant water was enough to spur me on. “No. More. Wrinkly. Feet.” I chanted (screamed?) as I plunged.
Step 7: Cue the beautiful music. No it won’t be Beyoncé’s Put A Ring On It, it’ll be the glorious sound of the drain gurgling and furiously draining right before your very eyes. At least that’s what happened in my case. And I may or may not have gotten misty-eyed at the sight of the swirling water.
Step 7: Screw the overflow cover back into place and call your husband/friend/parole officer to brag about your newfound plumbing skills. In my case I called John to gloat. I also debated greeting him at the door bent over with my butt crack out (we’re married, it’s ok) but decided against it.
Step 8. As a precautionary method, to clear things out even further, pour half a cup of baking soda and a cup of white vinegar down the drain (we actually used 50% rice wine vinegar and 50% apple cider vinegar because we had it on hand and it worked like a charm). Let it sit for five minutes and then flush everything down with a gallon of boiling hot water. This time everything should be whisked right down the drain like a flume ride at an amusement park. It might be the best moment of your life.
And that’s all it took. Zero dollars, zero chemicals, and zero manpower (lady power all the way). So that’s the story of me + 1 plunger +1 dishcloth + sheer desperation. Take that clog. Who’s your daddy? And it sure beat paying a pro to come work some magic in five minutes and bill me $80-$150 for his time. Which is not to say that we don’t highly encourage hiring a professional if you just can’t crack something on your own. For example, if this had been a clog in the main line or if exterior tree roots or pipe corrosion had been involved we definitely would have been happy to pay someone to swoop in and save the day.
And now I’ll enthusiastically end this drain discussion with even more bullets, in the form of what precautions we’ll be taking to make sure this never ever happens again (many of which were suggested by our lovely readers):
- We’ll be snagging a better drain trap with mesh that blocks a heckova lot more hair than our current metal plug (seen above)
- I’ll be brushing my hair before each shower so more comes out before I step into the tub
- We’ll be using our little baking soda and vinegar science project as maintenance every month from here on out
What about you guys? Any stories of home improvement triumph following a few frustrating attempts at something? Sometimes it takes a challenge to truly make you feel victorious!